Systematic analysis of white pox disease in Acropora palmata of the Florida keys and role of Serratia marcescens

Academic Article


  • © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. White pox disease (WPD) affects the threatened elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata. Owing in part to the lack of a rapid and simple diagnostic test, there have been few systematic assessments of the prevalence of acroporid serratiosis (caused specifically by Serratia marcescens) versus general WPD signs. Six reefs in the Florida Keys were surveyed between 2011 and 2013 to determine the disease status of A. palmata and the prevalence of S. marcescens. WPD was noted at four of the six reefs, with WPD lesions found on 8 to 40% of the colonies surveyed. S. marcescens was detected in 26.9% (7/26) of the WPD lesions and in mucus fromapparently healthy colonies both during and outside of disease events (9%; 18/201). S. marcescens was detected with greater frequency in A. palmata than in the overlying water column, regardless of disease status (P = 0.0177). S. marcescens could not be cultured from A. palmata but was isolated from healthy colonies of other coral species and was identified as pathogenic pulsedfield gel electrophoresis type PDR60. WPD lesions were frequently observed on the reef, but unlike in prior outbreaks, no wholecolony death was observed. Pathogenic S. marcescens was circulating on the reef but did not appear to be the primary pathogen in these recent WPD episodes, suggesting that other pathogens or stressors may contribute to signs of WPD. Results highlight the critical importance of diagnostics in coral disease investigations, especially given that field manifestation of disease may be similar, regardless of the etiological agent.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 23111021
  • Author List

  • Joyner JL; Sutherland KP; Kemp DW; Berry B; Griffin A; Porter JW; Amador MHB; Noren HKG; Lipp EK
  • Start Page

  • 4451
  • End Page

  • 4457
  • Volume

  • 81
  • Issue

  • 13